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verb

Verb, an action hero on the children's TV series Schoolhouse Rock! (1974)

Definition:

The part of speech (or word class) that describes an action or occurrence or indicates a state of being.

There are two main classes of verbs: (1) the large open class of lexical verbs (also known as main verbs or full verbs--that is, verbs that aren't dependent on other verbs); and (2) the small closed class of auxiliary verbs (also called helping verbs). The two subtypes of auxiliaries are the primary auxiliaries (be, have, and do), which can also act as lexical verbs, and the modal auxiliaries (can, could, may, might, must, ought, shall, should, will, and would).

Verbs and verb phrases usually function as predicates. They can display differences in tense, mood, aspect, number, person, and voice. See "Observations," below.

See also: Notes on Verbs and Verb Phrase.

Types and Forms of Verbs:

Etymology:

From the Latin, "word"


Examples:

  • "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
    (Theodore Roosevelt)


  • "In the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider."
    (Jimmy Stewart, It's a Wonderful Life, 1946)


  • "Automobiles, skirting a village green, are like flies that have gained the inner ear--they buzz, cease, pause, start, shift, stop, halt, brake, and the whole effect is a nervous polytone curiously disturbing."
    (E.B. White, "Walden")


  • "Behind the phony tinsel of Hollywood lies the real tinsel."
    (Oscar Levant)


  • "He slipped through the door and oozed out, and I was alone."
    (P.G. Wodehouse, Thank You, Jeeves, 1934)


  • "Some people say that I must be a terrible person, but it is not true. I have the heart of a young boy in a jar on my desk."
    (Stephen King)


  • "There are so many ways for speakers to see the world. We can glimpse, glance, visualize, view, look, spy, or ogle. Stare, gawk, or gape. Peek, watch, or scrutinize. Each word suggests some subtly different quality . . .."
    (Joshua Foer, "Utopian for Beginners." The New Yorker, December 24 & 31, 2012)

Observations:

  • "I am a serious little nerd. You see, I use verbs. Verbs are our friends. They help move along our sentences."
    (Steve Urkel in Family Matters)


  • "Verbs add drama to a random grouping of other words, producing an event, a happening, an exciting moment. They also kick-start sentences: without them, words would simply cluster together in suspended animation, waiting for something to click."
    (Constance Hale, Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose. Three Rivers Press, 2001)


  • "A better way to recognize the verb . . . is by its form, its -s and -ing ending; verbs also have an -ed and an -en form, although in the case of some irregular verbs these forms are not readily apparent. And every verb, without exception, can be marked by auxiliaries."
    (Martha Kolln, Understanding English Grammar, 1998)


  • Among the formal characteristics of English verbs are that they typically:
    a. may be made past in meaning by suffixing -(e)d as in walked, opened, said;
    b. may be made into agents by suffixing -er as in doer, walker, knower.
    c. may be made negative by prefixing dis- as in disagree, disappear, dislike.
    (Grover Hudson, Essential Introductory Linguistics. Blackwell, 2000)


  • "Some verbs are recognizable by form because they have been created from other parts of speech with derivational verb-making morphemes (falsify, enrage). Verbs are also recognizable because of their ability to change form through inflection, by taking endings that indicate third-person singular (eats), past tense (ate), past participle (eaten), and present participle (eating). But in isolation, without a context, it is impossible to tell whether words like dog/dogs and head/heads are nouns or verbs."
    (Thomas P. Klammer, et al., Analyzing English Grammar. Pearson, 2007)


  • Dynamic Verbs
    "Dynamic verbs are the classic action words. They turn the subject of a sentence into a doer in some sort of drama. But there are dynamic verbs--and then there are dynamos. Verbs like has, does, goes, gets and puts are all dynamic, but they don’t let us envision the action. The dynamos, by contrast, give us an instant picture of a specific movement. Why have a character go when he could gambol, shamble, lumber, lurch, sway, swagger or sashay? . . .

    "Verbs can make or break your writing, so consider them carefully in every sentence you write. Do you want to sit your subject down and hold a mirror to it? Go ahead, use is. Do you want to plunge your subject into a little drama? Go dynamic. Whichever you select, give your readers language that makes them eager for the next sentence."
    (Constance Hale, "Make-or-Break Verbs." The New York Times, April 16, 2012)


  • The Lighter Side of Verbs
    "Don't you dare use 'party' as a verb in my shop."
    (Dylan Moran, "Party." Black Books, 2004)


    Kelly Taylor: Okay, then. How would you like to spend your time before bed? Would you like to journal?
    Erin Silver: No, I would not like to journal. Nor would I like to use the word journal as a verb.
    (Jennie Garth and Jessica Stroup, "Okaeri, Donna!" 90210, 2009)
Pronunciation: vurb
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